Successful antibiotic stewardship programs engage clinicians, embrace IT, study shows

Pills in pill container
A robust health IT structure is crucial to a successful antibiotic stewardship program, according to a new Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety study. (Getty/Viperfzk)

Some hospitals face challenges when implementing an antimicrobial stewardship program, and a new study has identified some of the key strategies to overcome them. 

Researchers interviewed 12 antibiotic stewardship leaders at four prominent U.S. programs, and three trends emerged: 

  1. The structure of these programs is evolving. The most effective stewardship approaches have moved away from a top-down approach and engage frontline pharmacists and clinicians, according to the study, which was published in the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. 
  2. Using information technology is crucial. Integrated IT systems allow for real-time data sharing and monitoring that can flag risks and optimize therapies. 
  3. Barriers to technology integration pose a challenge. An ongoing lack of interoperability throughout the industry and a limited database for analysis can both limit the effectiveness of IT in antibiotic stewardship, the study found. 

Moving away from a top-down structure is especially crucial when working with physician groups, according to the study, as these groups have traditionally resisted antibiotic stewardship efforts. 

RELATED: Alternatives to antibiotics for mild infections could curb drug resistance, study suggests 

In an accompanying editorial, Arjun Srinivasan, M.D., associate director for healthcare associated infection prevention programs at the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, writes that the research offers crucial guidance on how antibiotic stewardship programs can be implemented "safely and effectively." 

"As hospitals work quickly to implement and expand stewardship programs, it will be increasingly important to identify promising approaches and key barriers," Srinivasan writes. "ASPs are growing up, and the key now is to ensure that their growth is sustained and productive. 

RELATED: World is running out of antibiotics to stop superbugs, WHO says 

Curbing antibiotic prescriptions, particularly broad-spectrum, powerful drugs, is the main strategy to fight the spread of deadly superbugs. Groups like the National Quality Forum have issued guidelines to help providers improve their antibiotic stewardship strategies.  

The World Health Organization has named 12 superbugs as the most dangerous to human health, and research estimates that drug-resistant pathogens could kill more people than cancer by 2050.